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Government may consider incentives to tackle community nurse shortages

The Department of Health and Social Care is looking at changes around incentives to encourage nurses into key staff shortage specialties such as community and mental health nursing. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock said the department will take action to ensure the 'right incentives' are available in a bid to encourage student nurses to join areas with the worse staff shortages. 

Speaking to the Health and Social Care Committee yesterday, he went onto caution: ‘But we’ve also got to be really clear-headed about where it’s best to use the firepower that we’ve got.’ 

The health secretary had been asked by committee chair Sarah Wollaston about his position on nursing bursaries and how to ensure more students enter specialties with the worst staff shortfalls. 

He argued that the number of applicants still exceeds the number of spots available and so the priority must be boosting the number of nursing degree places.

Mr Hancock continued: ‘[The figure] implies that the biggest barrier to growing the nursing workforce is still in the number of training placements. 

‘So, since the most urgent priority is to get more nurses, the best use of resources is in expanding the number of training places given that we’ve still got more applicants than training places.’  

As part of the NHS Long Term Plan published in January this year, the Government outlined plans to increase nurse undergraduate places by 25% in September.  

To support this, NHS leaders committed to funding an extra 5,000 places for clinical placements, which also represents a 25% rise.  

However, earlier this year, The Open University published a report that concluded 6% of undergraduate nursing degree places in the current academic year went unfilled due to barriers to entry.